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Doctor Who: Father's Day

Pete: 'Who am I, love?'
Rose: 'My daddy.'

This episode shouldn't have worked! It had too many things wrong with it. It was more soap opera than sci-fi, the special effects were naff, and some of the science was truly appalling. (Where the hell did that glowing TARDIS key bollocks come from?) Yet it was my favourite episode of the season so far! How the did that happen? I'll tell you how—because despite its many shortcomings, on an emotional level it did everything right.

The scenes between Rose and Pete were perfect. I really can't praise Paul Cornell's script enough. In the character of Pete Tyler he created a loving, fallible father for Rose. Pete wasn't a saint (particularly if the duffle coat incident is to be believed), he was a failed Del Boy—his flat a mess of worthless business stock and shattered dreams. His anecdote about someone inventing a window sill with a milk and yoghurt holder illustrated perfectly why he was such a failure—he had no head for business. Which for an entrepreneur, is the kiss of death.

Rose tried her best to hide the truth from Pete—she even lied about what a good Father he was—but Pete knew himself well enough to realise that her story didn't ring true. He knew that he'd never been reliable. He knew that he'd never been there for Rose. Her insistence that he would have been given the chance, was both beautiful and sad in equal measure—but even Rose's blind love for her father wasn't enough to save him. Pete saw a way to make amends and took it, and in the end, saved them all.

Every time Rose called Pete 'Daddy' my eyes filled up. This was such a well handled story and explained beautifully why the Doctor hasn't tried to change the fate of his own people. Altering events in time can have fatal consequences. The Doctor has always known this. Poor Rose had to learn it the hard way, and almost at a terrible cost.

The Doctor and Rose's relationship shifted too this week. The way he touched her face (a mirror image of how Pete touched her earlier in the episode), added an extra element to their relationship. Is this why the Doctor doesn't like Mickey, and why he didn't want to take Adam along? Has the Doctor been filling in for Rose's father all along? Is Rose the daughter he never had?

In the end, Pete didn't die alone. Rose was there to hold his hand. She did what she came to do, and thus history was changed—but just a little. The story surrounding Pete's death was altered slightly, but at least everyone lived. Apart from Pete.

Other Thoughts:

—I thought at first that the line, 'the past is another country' was a quote from L.P. Hartley's 'The Go-Between'. On further investigation, it turns out that the Hartley line is 'the past is a foreign country'. So I did a bit of digging and came up with a quote by Greil Marcus, 'The past is another country. A nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there' (from the book, 'Lipstick Traces: a Secret History of the 20th Century').

—The monsters this week were Reapers. They're not specifically named on-screen, but were originally scripted as being Grim Reaper type creatures, with scythes. Obviously this was later changed.

Billie says...

I loved this episode. I loved that Rose just couldn't help herself, that saving her father wasn't even a conscious decision on her part. (The Doctor should have known she wouldn't be able to resist.) Billie Piper was so terrific in every scene, her emotions written all over her face. And I particularly liked that Pete figured out who Rose was all by himself, and knew what he had to do to save her. Her faith in him almost certainly pushed him into living (or dying) up to her expectations. In his last moments, he became the father she needed, worthy of her adoration.

And it was pretty much perfect that Rose was able to change one thing: she was with him when he died, after all. The last thing he saw was her, his baby all grown up. What a gift, to see your child's future in your last moment on earth. I'm actually tearing up as I'm writing this. It was an emotional episode, and all of the emotions were just dead on.

Of course, the big question is, how come this "wound in time" thing doesn't happen every time the Doctor goes somewhere? And you know what? I might be able to answer that. Because it was Rose's past that changed, and Rose was with him. Okay, works for me.

Setting the siege in that church was a great idea. It helped create an end-of-the-world type mood. Also loved the Tardis appearing at the altar. I even liked the part about the key. (When I love the heart of an episode, I can be very forgiving about its flaws.)


Doctor: "Your wish is my command. But be careful what you wish for."

Doctor: "The past is another country. 1987 is just the Isle of Wight."

Doctor: (to baby Rose) "Rose, you're not going to bring about the end of the world. Are you? Are you?"

Pete: "I never read you those bedtime stories. I never took you on those picnics. I was never there for you."
Rose: "You would have been."
Pete: "But I can do this for you. I can be a proper Dad to you now."
Rose: "But it's not fair."
Pete: "I've had all these extra hours. No one else in the world has ever had that. And on top of that I get to see you. And you're beautiful. How lucky am I, eh?"
Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.


  1. Excellent review but this episode didn't do it for me when I first watched it, a bit too soapy.

    However it's one that I have enjoyed more on rewatches and judging how well you rated this episode, I can't wait for your reviews on Human Nature/The Family Of Blood.

    I don't get daughter/father vibes from Rose/Doctor. If this had been Ace, then sure but not Rose.

    The reapers were good villains, special effects wise.

  2. Goes straight for the heart strings and gives them a good hard tug. This is one of the series all time bests. Great performances from the entire cast (‘specially Billie Piper and Shaun Dingwall) and an emotional script from Paul Cornell. Just thinking about it now makes me tear up…sniff…sorry, I’ve just got something in my eye…sniff…

    P.S. I’ve just posted my latest classic series DVD review, feel free to check it out: http://markgreig.blogspot.com/2009/05/doctor-who-earthshock-dvd-reviews.html

  3. Hi Mark,

    Yeah, I read your review of Earthshock. I only vaguely remember that story....but what a terrible thing to say about Mel (despite me agreeing 100 percent...lol). I read your review of The Deadly Assassin a while ago and might speculate a few quid on that title. Providing I can pick it up for a fiver, naturally ;-)


  4. Classic Who DVDs usually drop off in price after a few months. I should’ve held out but I’m a weak buyer. I needed it now, dammit!!! :-)

    And yeah, it was a terrible thing to say (but 100% true). I’m dreading reviewing Delta and the Bannermen, three whole episodes of Bonnie Langford. Still not sure how I made it through Trial of a Time Lord without succumbing to the urge to punch the telly.

  5. Hi Mark,

    One thing I will say for Classic Who DVD's is they're usually value for money. Far better than New Who (yoo hoooo!!!). 70 quid for 14 episodes and a disk of cut down "Confidentials"? I think not!

    As for BL, I think secretly you're in love with her ;-)

  6. I cried my eyes out at this episode :-(

  7. I'm really enjoying reading your backlog of Who reviews. I started at the very beginning, so I am not very far yet, but stay-at-home moms have multiple opportunities for coffee breaks throughout the day.

    In answer to your last "bits and pieces" bit (or was it a piece?)- my brother had blue eyes as a baby and now has brown (he's 27) so it's not impossible. In fact, I think most Caucasian babies have blue-ish eyes at birth.

  8. Thanks for that Lindsey. Just goes to show what I know about babies. Can you tell I have no children? ;-)

  9. I believe I've figured it out after a couple viewings: there is nothing wrong with changing time. The doctor can and does change time constantly and nothing bad happens.

    The problems only happen when you interfere in your own timeline. If on the first attempt, Rose had ran out and saved her father, nothing too bad would have happened. It's because she went back the second time.

    The doctor even said that it was very dangerous to have two sets of the same people near each other. She was not supposed to let the previous versions even see them. Instead she ran right past them saving her father thus creating the paradox.

    Because from the view of the first, her father was saved, she didn't have to go back the second time. You'll notice that the previous versions blink out of existence once they notice her. That is what caused the problems.

    It's the same reason the doctor can't go back and save his people. He was the cause of their destruction so would have to come into contact with himself, setting off a paradox that could wipe out everything anyways.

  10. Your comment about the potential soapiness of the episode were right on, and you were absolutely right about the power of the episode. It's my favorite of the first season, and if I remember correctly, both Eccleston and Piper, at one point (in separate interviews) named "FD" as their favorites also.

    The issue of the Reapers is an interesting one. I am not sure the Reapers appear because Rose is with the Doctor when her past changes - 9 changes Rose's past with the red bicycle, and that's assumedly during the time Rose is with him (after he meets her and before his regeneration).

    At the same time (something someone else mentioned in a post), crossing one's own timeline may not cause Reapers automatically either. We can't know if the Reapears first appeared if Rose ran past herself - the Doctor only says it's a bad idea but doesn't seem to know about the Reapers until much later - or because Pete didn't die. We know the one inside the church didn't appear until Rose touched her baby self - simply being in the same spot with herself didn't cause the Reapers.

    Of course, the Doctor comes in contact with himself all the time without setting off Reapers, though one could argue that that's a different situation.

    I've heard it also suggested that perhaps Pete's death was a fixed point, not unlike Pompeii, and it had to happen. The question is whether a fixed point is, by definition, a fixed point for all universes or for one particular one.

    Anyway - I enjoyed your review very much. :-)

  11. Just watched this again after many years - episodes like this are why Doctor Who survives. It's the change of scale to the seemingly mundane that draws you back in.
    Btw I had blue eyes as a baby (and blonde hair!) but now they are both brown - the hair a little greying.

  12. Hi from the future! Invest in Zoom, hand sanitizer, and hoard toilet paper. HOARD IT! (Wrong show, mea culpa)

    So in anticipation of RTD coming back I've decided to rewatch his era which I liked well enough at the time but haS been overshadowed in my affections by Moffat's era.

    The first time I saw this episode I really loved it and I think it's what truly hooked me on the series.

    NOW, I still love it, maybe more. The "science" makes no sense, there is just no way to square this episode with the larger DW canon and the reapers looked terrible but it was such a great episode. Rose grates at time (please don't kill me) but here she was so earnest, just a 19 year old girl who wants her dad. You totally feel for her when she inadvertently sets off the apocalypse because she is so young and all she wanted was to meet her father. So well done. I didn't even mind Jackie that much. The Doctor yelling at her was fun; he clearly enjoyed it as well.

    Points for Eccleston's "I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed" face.

  13. I'm going to be an outlier here, judging by the reviews and prior replies, and say I felt this one was more of a mess than good. I did like the Doctor telling those people that claimed they weren't important that certainly were, and that are consequences for mucking about with your own timeline like Rose did with her dad, but not much else worked for me; especially the 'wishing the TARDIS key into existence' thing.

    It's not awful, but it didn't 'click' like it must have for others, so it's a bit below average for me.


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